Our Century

It's a proud day for Muriel

Queen Coronation
The Express & Star's front page on Coronation Day, June 2, 1963

Coronation day was the proudest day in her life for Muriel Bowen of Olbury. She was in charge of a detachment of women soldiers of the Territorial Army on the coronation parade in London.

She served with the TA for 11 years and was later commissioned as an officer, reaching the rank of captain.

But on Coronation day in 1953 she was an orderly sergeant, one of only five TA members of the Women's Royal Army Corps to take part in the parade.

"It was the first time the WRAC had ever worn their new green uniform," she recalls with a smile. "So nobody knew who we were. Someone came over and asked me if we were from the Canary Isles!"

Local boys freed by Koreans return to Britain: It was the year of England's crowning glory on two fronts with the cornation of the Queen and the conquering of Everest happening just a day apart.

However it was not all peace, goodwill and harmony in 1953 and there are few years when there is not a war going on somewhere in the world.

This year was no exception and, although our allies the Americans were involved, the Korean War probably seemed a far away conflict in a land about which we British knew nothing.

But some of our boys were fighting in that war and on May 1 around 20 of them from the Wolverhampton area who had been taken prisoner were freed in a sick and wounded condition by their captors.

It was an emotional homecoming scene as the lads checked back on to British soil when they landed at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire.

The party of freed soldiers included Private Enoch Harland, aged 31, of Thornley Street, who flew home in a Hastings aircraft having spent the previous night in Malta.

Pte Harland was met by his wife, his mother-in-law and brother-in-law but he had to wait a little longer to be reunited with his children, aged six and two.

He and other soldiers scoffed at some of the hard luck stories that had featured in the Press in the days leading up to their release.

"We had very fair treatment indeed and I wonder where all these hardship stories came from," one of the men was quoted as saying.

Trolley bus accidents double: The world was starting to speed up but in the towns of Willenhall and Darlaston frantic 40mph dashes by trolley buses were proving a headache for local road safety chiefs.

The joint road safety committee for the two areas took up the question with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents which revealed that legislation to limit speeds was expected in a forthcoming government transport bill.

But Mr G S Whiting, organiser of the committee, pointed out that trolley buses were not legally subject to the 30mph limit which applied to buses.

"We must keep on hammering at the Ministry of Transport until they will make a move in this matter," said committee chairman Councillor J T Williams.

Accidents involving trolley buses had almost doubled over the previous 12 months having gone up from 13 to 24.

And one of the members suggested that a reason for the increase in speeds was to enable crews to enjoy a longer tea break at the end of each run.

Readers agog at register row: A transatlantic tussle featuring a church leader and a Wolverhampton mother-of-eight kept readers agog during the spring of 1953.

At the centre of the row was an entry in the register of St Peter's church which the rector of Wolverhampton, Canon Brierley, wanted to sell to America. It marked the marriage of a Wolverhampton man by the name of Button Gwinnett to Ann Bourn, a local grocer's daughter, in 1757.

Gwinnett had emigrated to the States, became governor of Georgia, witnessed the signing to of the American Declaration of Independence and within less than a year had been killed in a duel.

Fast forward to 1953 and Canon Brierley is trying to sell the signature in the parish register for between 15,000 and 20,000.

Attempting to resists his efforts is mother-of-eight Mrs G M Fennelly, of Lea Road, Wolverhampton, widow of a descendant of the original Button Gwinnett.

All her children had Button Gwinnett as part of their names and she was determined to prevent what had happened six years before when another signature of her ancestor by marriage had been sold abroad for 5,000.

Sixth sense: A blind teenager from Dudley saved a Shropshire castle from being burnt to the ground. Kenneth Cole, aged 19, of Wrens Hill Road, Dudley, was able to detect by his other senses that Rowton Castle, home of the Royal Normal College for the blind, was on fire.

He got up and groped his way along a passageway linking the dormitories to raise the alarm.

Gifts for pensioners?


I noticed in Friday's papers that Smethwick residents aged 65 and over will receive coronation souvenirs of canisters of tea - a very nice gift.

Also, on other occasions I have noted that neighbourng towns and are making gifts to old age pensioners.

It would be interesting to know whether Darlaston Council propose to make a coronation gift to all old people in the town as I have not yet seen anything in the Press on this subject.

Interested, Darlaston

Eileen Wells
My Grandad refused to believe that the moon landing was anything more than an elaborate hoax.